The Things You Learn In Sunday School, Part 1

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This is the first in a series of videos that address some of the violent, absurd and atrocious Bible stories being taught to children in Sunday School around the world today. This video discusses how Abraham almost murdered his son because he heard god telling him to do so. And people wonder why fundamentalists of all Abrahamic religions are so violent?

This story is about Abraham and Isaac. In the Bible, God wanted to test Abraham's faith by commanding him to murder his son as a sacrifice. Abraham was completely willing and plotted to kill his son, right up to the very moment that God stopped him, since he passed the test by showing his willingness to kill his own son. Children are taught that this is the type of faith they should have and that they should put God before everything, including their own children, even if it means killing them at God's request.

In this day and age, Abraham would be put behind bars for plotting such a thing and most people, religious or not, would agree that should be the case. When ever someone commits a murder in their god's name, most everyone, regardless of religion or lack thereof, know that the suspect is crazy. For some reason, Abrahamic religious people (Jews, Christians, Muslims) don't feel the same way about their beloved Abraham, even though his schizophrenic episode in Genesis is no different than any of the parents killing their children for God today.

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An interesting point often overlooked in this story is that Isaac was 37 years old, asked his father what this was all about and when he heard he himself consented to be sacrificed. Also of critical importance is the fact that God stopped the two of them from going through with it.

The rampant murder and mayhem that kids are exposed to through television and video games, violence with no justification other than the thrill of it is to me far more scary and probably accounts for many more murders than Sunday school.

By jack smith (not verified) on 30 Aug 2009 #permalink

Moral of the story: when the old man starts hearing voices, hide the knives!

On re-reading the story in Genesis, I note that Isaac was old enough to carry all the wood needed for a burnt offering, so he had to have been at least a teenager. Yet the child-murderers of modern times almost always slaughter kids too young to run away (and I don't recall ever hearing of one following through with burning their sacrifice afterward).

Nobody today upholds traditional family values!

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 30 Aug 2009 #permalink

jack smith @ # 1: ... Isaac was 37 years old... he himself consented to be sacrificed.

Eh? Please cite chapter & verse - I couldn't find anything describing Ike's age at the time in a Project Gutenberg release of the King Jimmy Version.

Genesis 22:9 says he "bound Isaac", which implies coercion.

Did you get the details you cite from, uh, Sunday school?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 30 Aug 2009 #permalink

The story of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son is one of the most grotesque accounts in the entire Bible. That's why believers work so hard to spin the story and try to make it uplifting instead of revolting. They haven't succeeded yet.

The story depicts God as limited in powers. If He were all-knowing, then He wouldn't have to test anybody's faith. Further, God talked Abraham into agreeing to sin against Himself -- murder, remember, as in thou-shalt-not?

God should have been hung, buried, dug up, and shot.

BTW, the original Abraham was a woman, which explains the totemic power of "Abraham's bosom".

@ Jack Smith & Pierce:
The story of an adult or near-adult Isaac allowing himself to be sacrificed is one of the Pharasaic interpretations that came much later, as zeno's link shows. The purpose is to emphasize the submission to the will of God, which would make the Hebrews strong. I'm not sure when this spin was created, but it does sound more than a little like the story of the willingness of Jesus to be crucified. Just one of the not quite coincidences between the the early mythology of the Hebrews and the story in the Gospels. Another parallel: the slaughter of the Hebrew children in Egypt and Moses escaping in the reed boat with the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod with the baby Jesus escaping to Egypt. [which is another example of the cruelties for a 'higher purpose']

Technically, breaking the 6th[or 5th] Commandment may not count since this was before the Decalogue was given [dreamed up, whatever] to Moses [or whomever].

By natural cynic (not verified) on 30 Aug 2009 #permalink

Last night I got into an argument with a friend. He talked to me of the compassion, love, etc. that the bible teaches; and of how morally lost I and all nonbelievers were.

So I asked him what about all that murdering women, men and children stuff? What about enslaving entire cities? All that "show no pity stuff"?

He had no idea what I was talking about. He said, "Well, some people just misinterpret the bible. It's a book that must be thoroughly studied to be understood."

I told him that I was not talking about obscure metaphors, I was talking about passages in which god literally tells the people of Israel he will bring before them entire cities, that if the people in those cities do not "agree" to be enslaved, then they must be slaughtered.

He looked at me like I was making stuff up.

So I bring out my JPS bible, translated from the Hebrew word for word, and I read to him passages where God commands that if your son acts defiantly, then he must be stoned to death in public. Passages where god commands the people of Israel to enslave women, murder children... show no pity.

After 20 minutes of me reading these passages (and I could've gone for a while longer) his face had turned white and he looked like he was gonna be sick.

It's astonishing to me how many religious people have not read their own bible from beginning to end, or thought about the implications of God "hardening the heart" of the pharaoh just so he can prove a point-- which involves murdering the firstborn of countless families, having a whole kingdom starve nearly to death, etc. etc.

Yup, if they'd actually read the damn book they'd know that the pharoh wasn't evil, God just kept hardening his heart! *God* enslaved the Jews!
What the hell kind of a moral message is this??

You can argue that then God sends Jesus and takes back many of these crazy laws. But isn't that even more ridiculous? Why would God have the Jews murdering, raping, and pillaging for 3 thousand years only to then take it all back?


natural cynic @ # 7: I'm not sure when this spin was created, but it does sound more than a little like the story of the willingness of Jesus to be crucified.

The christians have monkeyed with a lot of documents, but I doubt they've been able to revise the Hebrew foundational myth (i.e., the whole Abraham story). Mohammed had a go at it (making Ishmael, putative ancestor of the Arabs, the legitimate child and Isaac the bastard), but has yet to persuade any rabbis to edit the Torah accordingly.

You can, otoh, make a strong case that much of the Jesus story echoes Hebrew ("Old") Testament themes: the gospels as a midrash gone out of control.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 30 Aug 2009 #permalink

Better be careful. One of those groups is inclined to use its children as mobile explosives.

It's fun to make fun of Christianity, but this country would be ROT if it weren't for them. And Jews. Mohammedans haven't contributed shat, but things like private property, rights for all, and even humane punishment come from those two groups. Now what was it again that the Mohammedans have planned for us?

"I, for one, welcome our new death cult overlords!"

He probably wouldn't be put in prison today. More likely house arrest and court ordered counseling. I mean after all it isn't his fault, he has schizophrenia. Now if he actually killed the child........

leave God alone. man and his science has killed more people than god ever did. God is saving creation. man and his science saves nothing. who created the atom bomb, the most destructive weapon ever. who created the missiles and military hardware.50million people died in the second world war. this war alone destroyed more people than god did in the whole of the old testament. our scientists have harvested germ and biological weapons and stored them for future use. and now the worst crime against humanity has been introduced, embroyonic stem cell research, taking a life to save a life. lives cant be saved, prolonged, not saved. death comes to us all, and always will.